Under or Over?

I had posted before about government workers being overpaid, but now, a new study by the Congressional Budget Office provides some detailed insight. I read this article and was intrigued by some of the implications.

this graph kind of summarizes the differences pretty well. It is interesting how the private sector puts a higher dollar value on higher education, where the government does not. this simple stacked bar graph seems to speak volumes to me.

I knew coming to work for the government, I would take a pay cut. I estimated it would be about 20%, and it looks like I wasn’t too far off. What really kind of bothers me is the left side of the graph – where you can infer that the government pays significantly higher for the same job in the private sector. This reinforces an old post on scared govvies, where you get low performers who may know how to work the system, and keep their relatively high paying job. These are precisely the people you don’t want working in the government – their poor work ethic and job-security-hubris does not help progress any part of any cabinet department’s mission.

This is why we have contractors. I’m sure at one time, contractors were an uncommon, if not rare, thing – where you have some remote government location that needs a specialty job done, a local contractor would go do it because it was cheaper than sending a federal worker out to that site and do the job, paying for their per diem, etc. Now, it seems contractors are almost as ubiquitous as the feds, if not more! And contractors aren’t cheap, either. Our current administration wants to decrease the use of contractors and keep federal work to feds – but I don’t see this as a short-term transition as several things get rolling first. I see it as (in no particular order):

– change government pay to be truly competitive to private (lower the left side of the graph, raise the right side of the graph). you have to make the pricing competitive enough where the private sector workers will really want to compete for the job.

– hire in bulk. If you have an opening for 2 workers in a department doing similar jobs, working in a similar area, or working under the same boss – hire 3 workers. This allows room to essentially fire the weakest link (which will hopefully lead to expedient filtering out the “bad” govvies)

– fire in bulk. or at least allow for better evaluation of management. a supervisor I know gave his employee an average performance evaluation, which pretty much excluded the employee from receiving a performance-based bonus. the employee, from what I could see, did not deserve an exceptional evaluation at all. The employee, instead of making an improvement plan and working harder for the next evaluation, decided to complain to HR and the main headquarters. now the supervisor and the employee have to go through a “hearing” and each side needs to present their case, which seems to go in the employee’s favor because it causes such a big headache for the supervisor (who isn’t a bad employee per se, but is in a crappy position)

– document. document. document. the example above could have been easily resolved if the supervisor documented his expectations from the employee and documented how the employee did or did not meet those expectations. for some reason, even in this electronic-centric world, I still get tons of requests and assignments over the phone. I always request they email it to me so I have a reminder (and a paper trail). this makes it so you can always refer to your email for communications if you get into a “he said, she said” situation. go away from the telephone, get on email, it’ll make things more productive overall

I’m sure there are tons more things to happen before we actually decrease the number of contractors the government uses, like adopting a more business-like mentality instead of the stereotypical government mentality. I think possibly the hardest change will be to adjust the pay scales without increasing total costs too much. you’ll have to make the govvies with less education take a pay cut to match market prices, presumably there are more less-educated govvies than more-educated govvies, and take that money and put it towards a more-educated govvie. This would help make the government pay look like the private side – and start to attract some of the private side workers.

This is definitely more complex a problem than I’m sure the cabinet-level management care to acknowledge. this is likely more complex than I can even imagine. The secretary of [cabinet dept here] likely doesn’t realize that the people at the top are likely motivated workers, then you get a smattering of good, ok, and bad supervisors throughout the middle management; and then you have an even wider array of great, good, ok, bad, worst workers on the ground. I’m sure there are tons of falsely positive (type 1 error anyone?) OPM records for employees who are probably bad employees, but just skate on by – or in the case of the worker example above, threaten their way up.

The silver lining? well, the good thing about a disjointed system is that there is a lot of room for improvement. thankfully, I’m in a position where I get to put a lot of simple but effective improvements in place that help improve efficiency and ease of use. this is partially because I’ve got a good supervisor who is open to these “new” ideas (I put the new in quotes because they aren’t new to most internet users) to apply to our aging system. there are a lot of improvements that can be made, and I’d like to think I’m contributing to making it better and, in the long term, making sure our tax dollars (in terms of misused time) isn’t wasted.

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